More Vatican sexual abuse scandals

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Associated Press, 28 April 2010 — The cardinal who oversees priest abuse cases at the Vatican didn’t restrict a California priest after learning in 1995 that he had molested a 13-year-old boy a decade earlier.

From Associated Press:

Report: Austrian cardinal accused of sex abuse stayed a member of Vatican congregations

06:05 PM Apr 28, 2010

VIENNA – A newspaper is reporting that a deceased Austrian cardinal remained on the rosters of Vatican congregations even after he stepped down in 1995 following sex abuse allegations.

Der Standard reported Wednesday that Hans Hermann Groer – who was Vienna archbishop from 1986 to 1995 – was listed in the 1999 directory of the Roman Catholic Church as a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

The Groer scandal broke in 1995 when a 37-year-old former student at a boy’s seminary in the town of Hollabrunn alleged that he abused him repeatedly in the early 1970s. Other accusations followed. Groer stepped down shortly after the first allegations surfaced – officially due to old age. He died in 2003 but never admitted any guilt.

Also from Associated Press:

Brazil: Priest charged with 8 abusing [sic; rather “abusing 8″] boys

By BRADLEY BROOKS (AP) – 7 hours ago

RIO DE JANEIRO — A Roman Catholic priest in Brazil is facing charges he abused eight boys in cases dating back to 1995, prosecutors said Wednesday, adding to a growing list of allegations against clergy in Latin America.

Father Jose Afonso, 74, is accused of abusing altar boys between the ages of 12 and 16, Sao Paulo state prosecutors said in an e-mailed statement.

Prosecutors said the reported abuses occurred this year, in 2009 and in 2001 in the city of Franca, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) north of Sao Paulo city. At least one case was reported in 1995 in the neighboring state of Minas Gerais.

Afonso remains free while a judge decides if he should be jailed.

Calls to the Franca diocese rang unanswered. After-hours of calls to the offices of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops were not returned.

The case is the latest to hit Brazil, which has more Catholics than any other nation, and Latin America as a whole.

Earlier this month, 83-year-old Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa was detained in northeastern Brazil for allegedly abusing at least three boys after being caught on video tape having sex with a young man, a former alter boy.

He is under house arrest while an investigation continues. Two other priests in the same archdiocese as Barbosa are also accused of abuses.

A priest in Chile was charged recently with eight cases of sexually abusing minors, including a girl he had fathered.

Earlier this month Chile’s bishops’ conference issued a statement apologizing for priestly sexual abuse and vowing a “total commitment” to prevent it in the future.

Also this month, a Mexican citizen filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. federal court in California against former priest Nicolas Aguilar Rivera and the Roman Catholic cardinals of Mexico City and Los Angeles, claiming they moved the priest between the two nations to hide abuse allegations.

Church reaction to the controversy around the globe has angered many who think the Vatican leadership has not acted strongly enough.

Pope Benedict XVI’s second-in-command outraged many this month in Chile when he said homosexuality and not celibacy was the primary reason for the abuse. The comments by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, were condemned by gay advocacy groups, politicians and even the French government.

Late Tuesday, a top Vatican official said the pope may issue a strong apology for the church’s handling of clerical sexual abuse cases when he attends a meeting of the world’s clergy in June.

Sam Harris: Bringing the Vatican to Justice: here.

13 thoughts on “More Vatican sexual abuse scandals

  1. Suit: Vatican No. 2 got letter from abuse victim

    By DINESH RAMDE and ERIC GORSKI Associated Press Writers

    Posted: 04/22/2010 05:32:03 AM PDT

    MILWAUKEE—A neatly typed letter dated March 5, 1995, is addressed to the No. 2 man at the Vatican and recounts the story of a priest who preyed on deaf boys trapped in dormitories with no chance of escape.

    The letter to Cardinal Angelo Sodano from one of the Rev. Lawrence Murphy’s alleged victims is more evidence for those trying to learn what Vatican officials knew about abuse claims at St. John’s School for the Deaf outside Milwaukee and when.

    The document was revealed Thursday in yet another lawsuit aimed at the highest reaches of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s also significant because it involves Sodano, a strong defender of Pope Benedict XVI’s handling of the global clergy sexual abuse crisis and a man whose own record on a separate high-profile case has come under scrutiny.

    The Vatican’s U.S.-based attorney, Jeffrey Lena, said in a statement Thursday that the lawsuit was a publicity stunt with no merit and it rehashes theories already rejected by U.S. courts.

    Murphy, who died in 1998, is accused of sexually abusing some 200 boys at the deaf school from 1950 to 1974. He was put on a leave of absence when the allegations were revealed in the early 1970s. The lawsuit claims Murphy was still allowed to serve in ministry and work with children in another Wisconsin diocese into the early 1990s.

    The Vatican has previously said that diocese officials and civil authorities knew about the allegations some 20 years before the Vatican was ever notified. Because of that, Lena said, it cannot be held liable for Murphy’s abuse.

    Murphy’s case drew renewed attention after the recent release of documents called into question the actions of a Vatican office led by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

    Before the disclosure of the 1995 letter to Sodano, it was believed the Vatican first learned of allegations against Murphy in a July 1996 letter from Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland. That letter was sent to the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the powerful Vatican office Ratzinger led from 1981 to his election as pope in 2005.

    That office told the archbishop to move forward with a canonical trial against Murphy in March 1997. But then the office later urged a different course after receiving a letter from Murphy.

    The Rev. Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, has said they suggested restricting Murphy from ministry rather than holding a full-blown canonical trial, citing Murphy’s age, failing health, and a lack of further allegations.

    The Wisconsin bishops ordered the proceedings halted, but in the end, Murphy died while still a defendant in a canonical trial, which could have led to Murphy being laicized, or stripped of the priesthood.

    The defendants in the lawsuit are Ratzinger, Sodano, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and the Holy See, identified as the state of the Vatican City. Bertone was Ratzinger’s deputy at the time and is now the Vatican’s secretary of state.

    The lawsuit claims all three men knew about the allegations against Murphy and conspired to keep them secret. The lawsuit says the claims are based on “information and belief” but doesn’t offer proof.

    Sodano has long been accused in news reports in U.S. Catholic publications and other outlets of stalling a Vatican probe of the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the discredited founder of the Legionaries of Christ. The order has admitted that the late Maciel fathered at least one child and molested young seminarians.

    Anderson, the plaintiff’s lawyer, provided a copy of a receipt showing the registered letter to Sodano had reached the Vatican. The man wrote Sodano—then the Vatican’s Secretary of State—again and got no response, according to Anderson.

    Lena said that at the time, it was a local matter regarding a local priest and the victim had already communicated with the local bishop. Under those circumstances, Lena said it is “entirely appropriate” under canon law for the local diocese—not the Holy See—to respond.

    Thursday’s lawsuit is not the first to aim directly at the Vatican, even from Anderson. Another lawsuit of his remains open in Oregon and was recently allowed to move forward by

    a federal appeals court. In a separate Kentucky lawsuit, Vatican attorneys are mounting a defense they hope will shield the pope from having to answer attorneys’ questions under oath.

    Some legal experts questioned the Wisconsin lawsuit’s prospects.

    Nicholas Cafardi, a canon lawyer and former dean at the Duquesne University School of Law, said he doesn’t believe Anderson can overcome sovereign immunity hurdles. He said the lawsuit describes the Roman Catholic Church as if it were an international commercial business and it’s not.

    “He’s alleging an employment relationship between individual priests and the Holy See,” Cafardi said. “I’m sorry, but diocesan priests in the United States are not employees of the Holy See … If a court were to accept that, they would be creating a new Catholic Church, not the one that exists now.”

    But Washington, D.C., attorney Jonathan Levy, a specialist in international law who has tried suing the Vatican Bank over Holocaust claims, said Anderson could succeed in taking advantage of exceptions to sovereign immunity.

    “I’d say he’s got some new and exciting theories in there why the Vatican should be held responsible for its bad acts,” Levy said.


    Associated Press Writer Nicole Winfield in Vatican City, Patrick Condon in St. Paul, Minn., and Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis contributed to this report. Gorse reported from Denver.


  2. Vatican official left abusive priest in pastor job

    Posted Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010


    Associated Press Writer

    The pope’s hand-picked replacement to oversee abuse cases at the Vatican did nothing to restrict a California priest after learning in 1995 that the priest had molested a 13-year-old boy a decade earlier.

    Cardinal William Levada, then archbishop of San Francisco, said in a 2005 deposition obtained by The Associated Press that he did nothing and didn’t contact police because he trusted the Rev. Milton Walsh would not re-offend and his predecessor handled the case adequately.

    There were no known allegations of later abuse by the priest and a Vatican attorney says Levada acted appropriately under standards of the time.

    When Levada learned of the abuse, Walsh had been pastor for six years at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, a parish of about 1,000 people. He remained there for two more years and was removed from active ministry in 2002, when U.S. bishops passed a “zero tolerance” policy on sex abuse and police started investigating.

    Levada is now the highest-ranking American at the Vatican and head of the office that defrocks pedophile priests. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held the post before he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

    The Vatican’s lawyer, Jeffrey Lena, says Levada handled the case properly by the era’s norms, which have evolved significantly in recent years. The Holy See told bishops this month they should report abuse to police rather than keep cases quiet as had been the practice for decades.

    “One thing the law teaches: it is fundamentally unfair to apply standards of conduct retroactively,” Lena said. “And yet, even if one were to do so, it must be acknowledged there was no re-offense by the priest. So in this case, the old approach did work.”

    Levada’s critics say it’s an example of his disregard for abused children.

    “When it comes right down to it, he absolutely never reached out in this clear-cut case. I think that’s typical of Levada and that’s perhaps why he’s in the position he’s in,” said Diane Josephs, the attorney for Walsh’s victim, Jay Seaman.

    Levada’s involvement with the San Francisco case began shortly after he left his post as archbishop of the Diocese of Portland, Ore., in the fall of 1995.

    The victim’s aunt wrote Levada to say Walsh molested her nephew in 1984 and complained he was still a minister at St. Mary’s. She begged him not to “not let this man slip through the cracks,” according to a copy of the Sept. 20, 1995, letter provided by Seaman’s attorney.

    Levada consulted his predecessor, Archbishop John Quinn, who encouraged Levada to speak with the priest, according to Levada’s 2005 deposition to attorneys for alleged clergy abuse victims.

    Walsh confirmed he fondled the boy’s genitals when staying with the family but he stopped when the boy objected and returned to his own bed, Levada said.

    Letters among the family, Quinn and Walsh show Seaman’s parents – who were devout Catholics – decided not to go to the police, but instead sought spiritual guidance. Quinn told them he would make sure Walsh received therapy and with time, “the boy will forget.”


  3. Chile Catholic church hit by abuse claims, bomb

    By FEDERICO QUILODRAN (AP) – 1 day ago

    SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s Roman Catholic Church was shaken by a series of dramatic televised interviews of men alleging they were abused by a respected former priest, followed hours later by a bombing that damaged a church’s facade.

    Four men detailed their claims — which also are the subject of police and church investigations — on a state channel Monday night. Now adults, they said the alleged abuse by Father Fernando Karadima began about 20 years ago when they were between 14 and 17 years old, in his residence at the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in an elegant neighborhood of Santiago.

    Dr. James Hamilton, now a surgeon, said between sobs that the abuse began with an act of masturbation when he joined the priest’s Catholic youth group and continued for years.

    Three others, including seminarians who saw Karadima as their spiritual leader, made similar allegations.

    Chilean church officials said earlier this month that 20 of the country’s priests have been accused of sex abuse, including five who were convicted.

    Archbishop Francisco Javier Errazuriz of Santiago, while asking the faithful for their understanding, acknowledged Sunday that he had suspended a church investigation of Karadima in 2005. The probe was renewed last year.

    Karadima, now 80 and retired but still living in the church residence, has not responded publicly to the allegations. He is strongly defended by other bishops and members of his church.

    Jose Manuel Ossandon, mayor of the neighboring town of Puente Alto, says Karadima is being made a sacrificial lamb by the church, an idea that prompted an angry response from the president of Chile’s Episcopal Conference of bishops, Alejandro Goic.

    “We want total transparency and total truth. The idea that the church is using Father Karadima to clean its image is an infamy that we cannot accept,” Goic said.

    The allegations in Chile come amid a growing church abuse scandal in Latin America, where the large majority of more than 500 million people are Roman Catholics.

    Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press.


  4. Threats to abused boys

    April 25, 2010

    THREE former altar boys allegedly sexually abused by a Catholic priest have been threatened and are under police protection, a Brazilian official has revealed.

    An adviser to the paedophilia commission said the three were threatened after they denounced Monsignor Luiz Marques Barbosa for allegedly molesting former altar boys in the north-eastern Alagoas state. A priest helping authorities was also receiving police protection.

    A video of Father Barbosa, who is under house arrest, allegedly shows him abusing one of the boys.


  5. It’s odd that anyone should be surprised at the current sexual child abuse scandal engulfing the Catholic Church. It should not be surprising because for anyone who knows the history of the Church, rampant sexual abuses of all kinds were quite commonplace for centuries. During the Middle Ages the Church had absolute power over people, and the people had no power at all to do anything, nor anyone to complain to. One can only imagine the lurid events in convents, monasteries, abbeys and other houses of God. That clergy went on doing this until the present time is only natural.

    The trouble for the Church is, these days the environment outside the Church is different. A priest can no longer do as he pleases with the boys in church because these days the child can speak out without fear of being flogged by his parents, or bringing shame to the family, or excommunication, or even a visit to an Inquisition dungeon. So, the only difference between now and the 14th century is that now there’s an open press, a somewhat liberal society, and an inexorable distancing from religion and thus from the despotic yoke of the Church.

    But no one should expect the Pope to make the right thing now, namely defrock these pederast priests and hand them over to the civil authorities for prosecution, because that is not what popes do. No, popes do not have the interests of Justice and the victims in mind, they have the interests of the Holy Church in mind, and that means thinking in the long term. And when it comes to thinking ahead and thinking of what will be best for the Church in the long term, the answer is always demurrals, delays, silence, and stonewalling for decades—even generations—until there’s no one alive who lived through the events in question, and the events are forgotten by all except some historians. By the time they narrate the events in history books, the people are so detached that the stories sound almost quaint. It’s like stories of the massacres perpetrated by Catholics in the name of religion during the Crusades or even the Religious Wars. Or the tortures and persecutions of the Inquisition. Who is revolted by these things these days? We would if they had just happened. But we are not because they happened so long ago that we tend to view them in the same way as the barbarous actions of any people in antiquity. This is the strategy of silent popes. It has worked wonderfully for the Church in the past. It’s up to right minded people today to prevent it from working for them again.

    Gabriel Wilensky
    Six Million Crucifixions:
    How Christian Teachings About Jews Paved the Road to the Holocaust
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  6. Former vicar faces sexual offences allegations

    By Antony Stone, PA

    Monday, 24 May 2010

    A former vicar accused of a series of sexual offences against children is due to appear before a crown court judge today.

    Richard Hart, 60, of Beguildy, near Knighton, mid Wales, is facing a string of gross indecency and indecent assault allegations.

    Hart, a former priest-in-charge of four parishes in south Powys, was arrested and charged with the offences in March.

    He went on to appear at Llandrindod Wells Magistrates’ Court on March 24 where his case was committed to crown court.

    He will appear before a judge at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing this morning.


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